The Art of Wood Fire Pottery (video)

Wood Fired Pottery is by many considered the finest kind of pottery. True pottery art. And it's not without reason. The combination of oxygen reduces atmosphere, flames and ashes creates outstanding, unique colors and patterns that can only be made in a wood fired kiln. 


Wood Fired Pottery draw attention

It is many years ago that I first noticed how much most people love wood fired pottery - even when they do not know how it's made. 

I remember one Christmas market pop-up shop we had a few years ago with a mix of pottery from 4 artists. Much of it had normal - but very beautiful glazes, some was pitfired, some had no glaze and a few was wood fired. Almost every time a customer entered the shop the wood fired pottery immediately got their attention. 

Even after realizing that these wood fired pots do cost a bit more - due to the much higher cost of making them, they still very often chose one of them.

I do not know exactly why but somehow this organic way of firing pottery just creates a look that attract people. We sort of connect better to it. It feels more "real" - or something. I feel the same way. 

How to Wood Fire Pottery

To wood fire pottery first of all you naturally need access to a wood fire kiln. that alone is a limitation to most potters because wood fire kilns are huge, flame and sod creating monsters that you can't just install in any residential area. Typically they are build away from the city with great distance to neighbors.

I do not personally have a wood fire kiln for exactly those reasons but I am fortunate enough to be able to gain access to the biggest collection of wood fired kilns in Europe at the International Ceramic Research Center Guldagergaard

Wood firing pottery is a very long process and it takes a lot of hard work. After the pots have been bisque fired (which I do in an electric kiln) they are ready for the glaze fire in the wood fire kiln. But before the actual fire can be initiated there is typically 1-2 days of work preparing it.

  • The pots have to be glazed with special glazes suited for wood fire
  • So call "waddings" have to be made - they are used to seperate the pots from the kiln shelf to avoid the glue to them when fired
  • A lot of wood have to chopped!
  • The pots have to carefully be stacked in the kiln
  • And finally the kiln have to be closed up - now it's ready to fire

The actual fire of the wood fire kiln takes typically 16-24 hors to complete. After that all holes are sealed and the kiln is left to cool down. That can take several days. 

Only after the kiln and pottery is cold enough the kiln can be carefully opened and the pots taken out one by one. And that is truly almost like Christmas. Very often with surprising results but almost always with amazing results. 

But, there is almost always also failures. There are many risks in wood fire. No-one ever succeed with all the pots in a fire. This is another reason they cost a bit extra. But the ones that survive, the ones that comes out perfect and second to none. This is what attracts people.

Wood Fire Video

The first time I did a wood fire with a lot of my own pottery I did the video below. It shows everything involved - from glazing, stacking, fire and unloading of the final pots. 


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1 comment

I have a wood kiln that I built in my late 60’s, now in my 70’s the smoke and labor can be exhausting to the point that I hesitate to do a firing. It occurs to me that wood firing is to electric like silver nitrate film is to digital video, and that I’m a dinosaur. Your video was helpful for keeping me on track.

Robert w mccann

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